While studying for my Child Nursing degree I spent eight weeks on a placement at a children’s hospice. I wanted to share my experience with future nursing students so you know what to expect as you move through different parts of your nursing journey.
My first day was an eye-opener. I was expecting it to feel like a children’s ward at the hospital but it was more like a Centre Parcs cabin crossed with a hotel. I thought I’d see resus trolleys and oxygen and suction in every room, but I didn’t. At first, I was confused: where was this all medical equipment that I expected?
I spoke with a member of staff and that’s when I realised. Of course, a hospice is the place where children come for end-of-life care. I knew that. But I hadn’t realised that during this time, the hospice has an important role to play. Not just in providing palliative care and symptom management care, but in being somewhere peaceful and relaxing.
After my first week, I stopped wearing my uniform (because it was encouraged). I found this going against what I expected in so many ways, but the most important thing I could do was help these children feel in a safe-haven a million miles away from hospitals and medical care centres. I wasn’t alone, most of the nurses and care staff wore polo shirts as their uniform, not a tunic.
There were many elements of working in a hospice which I did recognise from my other placements. The main care within the hospice was gastrostomy, NG, NJ feeding, symptom management and respite care. On my placement I gave medication, gastrostomy feeds, NG feeds, setting up feeds, end-of-life care and care of passed away children.
After about my second week, I feel like I had truly come to understand exactly what a nurse's role is in a children’s hospice and more importantly what extent of nursing care is available. I’m so grateful for these placements, because as hard as they can be, they teach us so much in such a short time.
A difficult experience was coming into contact with one of the children I had previously looked after in the community. They had been admitted for end-of-life care here and one day, I was assigned to this child during a handover. That day, their condition was declining every hour and it was very emotional for me. For this child’s care I used many nursing skills such as giving emergency buccal midazolam, bagging and giving paraldehyde. However, unfortunately the child passed away. I stayed with staff in the care of the child afterwards. I volunteered to help – it felt the right thing to do – emotionally for my own closure but also for those around me.
It was difficult, but afterwards I had to carry on with the day with my head held high and provide care for the other children in the hospice. Despite the emotions, I loved this placement because of the children I met in the hospice. Some of them I know I will see on future placements, and after I am qualified too.
The care the staff in these hospices give is amazing and the extras on offer, such as music and beauty therapy, are outstanding. I cannot commend them enough for all that they do, and thank them for supporting me in my placement to understand this difficult but integral role in our society.
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